Air Arms Alfa Competition pistol - Part 3
by B.B. Pelletier
I told you this report would take longer than most because of the complexity of the gun. Today I'm going to pick a "best" pellet to use in the future tests. I'll show you how I do that, but before I do there is an error to correct.
Pistol is regulated
In the last report, we looked at velocity and after seeing the huge spread of velocities, I declared the Alfa to be unregulated. Since then, two people have contacted me and assured me that it does have a regulator, after all. All I can say in my defense is that I have never seen a spread of velocities like that from a regulated gun unless the reg went south. But I don't believe it did. I think that it's just a reg that's doing the best it can with the tiniest breath of air. It's impressive on the one hand, but hardly world-class performance on the other. Sometimes, you just can't squeeze 10 lbs. into a 5-lb. bag! At any rate, now you know the truth and I'm sorry I told you different.
Shooter is unregulated
Ever lay off long-distance running for 10 years and then try it one day? It doesn't work--I don't care how old you are!
Neither does 10-meter pistol shooting. I haven't practiced or competed for close to 8 years and it shows in my lack of form. It takes me three times as long to plant my feet and get into position, and even when I do I feel like the marshmallow man.
Compounding my own shortcomings were the pistol's sport grip (non-target style), plus the fact that I didn't have the trigger overtravel stop adjusted correctly. This is important training for all who aspire to become 10-meter competitors. Always establish your alibis BEFORE you embarrass yourself in front of witnesses.
Picking a pellet is easy...
Despite all those warnings, I was easily able to select the best pellet from a group of four target pellets. You will be surprised at how it turns out. But before we see that, here is what I DIDN'T do.
I didn't stick the gun in a vice and select the best pellet that way. Besides being lazy (please add that to my growing list of alibis), I discovered years ago that vices are meaningless when it comes to pellet accuracy in a 10-meter pistol. Not everybody agrees with me on this (no big surprise there), but some of the top shooters in the world do. Here's why.
A gun can shoot a tight group when clamped in a vice and not be as accurate when shot as a hand-held pistol. Some other pellet that didn't do as well in the vice may do much better when fired from the hand. I don't know why that is, but it seems to work that way. Everyone in my 10-meter club tested pellets in their hand-held guns. Just as they all adjusted their sights while hand-holding their guns. You wouldn't think it was possible, but you can actually do better that way, even if you're a beginner.
When I test pellets I hold the pistol the same way I do when in a match. Think it doesn't matter? Take a look at the results.
Before we begin, know that we are not looking for high scores in this drill. We don't care where the pellets land--just how close to each other they are. After you select a good one you simply adjust the sights to get it into the 10-ring.
Well, what do you think? Did you imagine it would be that easy? I did, because I've done this several times before. You may have to shoot several groups with each pellet as I did to see this kind of performance, but it will usually stand out just as dramatically as you see here.
Picking a pellet is easy...NOT!
You aren't done at this point. You simply have a pellet that can be used for the next step, which is to adjust the sights and start learning the pistol. The clear winner in this test is the RWS R-10, so it becomes the pellet to beat. After this, you will shoot R-10s, but you'll always be on the lookout for something that will shoot even better.
What about head sizes?
Target pellets come in various head diameters--typically from 4.49mm to 4.52mm. I have never found a gun that likes 4.49mm pellets, but I'm sure they must be out there because they still make pellets that size. I usually prefer to start with 4.51 heads and go from there. The head size is what gives the pellet its resistance in the breech, and I like a tight pellet.
But I don't worry about head sizes until after this test is complete. One thing I will try to do is test all pellets of the same head size, but the tins aren't always marked as some of these weren't.
And pellet weights?
I selected the lightest weight pellets if it was offered in two weights. Light is for air pistols and heavy is for rifles. The object is to keep the velocity between 475 and 575 f.p.s., approximately. Since the Alfa is low-powered, light pellets will usually be best.
One final thing
Since I used a clean backerboard over the opening of the trap for this test I got an interesting thing. Thirty pellets from three different types (10 from each type) went into a large hole and the five Gamo Match went below that after the sights were adjusted.